An attorney from Orinda and an Army veteran from Walnut Creek (both Democrats) have recently announced that they plan to run against incumbent Catharine Baker to represent the Tri-Valley and the rest of District 16 in the State Assembly.
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Tom Tarantino, both Democrats, have launched their campaigns in advance of the June primary aiming to unseat Baker, a Republican who has held the position since 2014.
One of 25 Republicans in the 80-member Assembly, Baker has confirmed she will seek re-election to a third consecutive two-year term next year. The Dublin resident is eligible for eight more years of service in either house of the State Legislature under California’s term limits.
“I am running for re-election because I see that putting rigid partisanship to the side and focusing on the important issues and results is working,” Baker, 46, said this week. “That is my focus, and will be my focus.”
A civil attorney by trade, Baker was a political newcomer in 2014 when she defeated liberal Tim Sbranti, a former Dublin mayor, to win the open Assembly seat previously held by the Democrats. She won re-election comfortably in 2016.
Though Bauer-Kahan and Tarantino have announced their bids to challenge Baker, prospective candidates can’t officially enter the race until the nomination period opens in mid-February. The top two finishers in the June primary will face each other in a runoff election for the seat in November.
In addition to the San Ramon Valley, the 16th Assembly District also includes Livermore, Dublin, Pleasanton, Walnut Creek and Lamorinda.
A 38-year-old Bay Area native, Bauer-Kahan defines herself as an attorney, environmental advocate, community leader, law professor and mother. She’s a lifelong Democrat, and her platform focuses on school funding and guaranteeing universal preschool, protecting the environment and fighting climate change, and improving transportation options.
“Today, California is on the front lines in the battle against the Trump Administration and extremists in Washington,” she said. “Our community deserves a representative who will stand up to those forces and truly fight for what’s important. I hope the people of the 16th Assembly District will take a closer look at Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker — and once they do, they will find she is seriously out of step with the needs of this district.”
This is the first time she has sought elected office.
Bauer-Kahan’s specialties as an attorney have ranged from ensuring major corporations comply with environmental regulations, working with tech companies on intellectual property cases and expanding her office’s pro bono program to include civil rights, immigration, homelessness and domestic violence cases, she said. Recently, she helped coordinate the legal services effort at San Francisco International Airport to aid refugees and immigrants affected by the Trump Administration’s travel ban.
She has taught appellate law and legal research and writing at Santa Clara University and Golden Gate University for the past seven years, and holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University Law Center.
She lives in Orinda with her husband and three children, where she is a leader in local non-profits and organizations.
Tarantino, 39, grew up in San Anselmo in Marin County and served in the Army for 10 years, after which time he worked in public policy in Washington D.C., focusing on veteran affairs and advocacy.
Now he works on Twitter’s public policy team and lives in Walnut Creek.
“My wife, Tara, and I are building our life in the 16th District,” Tarantino said. “Like other families who are doing the same, I want our community to have better transportation options, the best schools, cleaner air and water, and affordable housing for all. We need leaders in California who can take on these fights and bravely defend our values.”
This is his first time seeking an elected office.
Tarantino enlisted in the Army Reserves at the age of 19 in 1997, and served on active duty from 2003-07. During his service, he helped repatriate refugees in Bosnia, trained soldiers and lead two platoons through combat in Iraq.
After leaving the service with the rank of captain, he joined Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), leading the organization’s D.C. office for almost two years. In this capacity, his work centered on upgrading the GI Bill, fighting to prevent for-profit schools from preying on veterans, advocating for mental health provisions in veterans benefits, and addressing sexual assault in the military and suicide rates in veterans, he said.
He attended the College of Marin and later University of California, Santa Barbara on an ROTC scholarship, and he holds a Bachelor of Arts in global studies and international relations.